Spa studies graduates in hot demand

September 8, 2006

In the third of our series on popular courses, Jessica Shepherd unwinds on a trip to Buxton, home to the UK's first spa management degree

Not again. The phones don't stop ringing at the school of culture and lifestyle at Derby University's Buxton campus.

A muffled line usually means the call comes from a luxury cruise ship liner; the rest are from Mauritius, Thailand and Dubai.

Most are prospective offers of jobs or work placements for students on the UK's first spa management degree.

Those with the three-year BSc are joining what is becoming one of the UK's fastest-growing industries.

Spas have reported a jump in gross annual sales of 28 per cent a year on average, according to their industry body. Graduates well versed in the medicinal properties of thermal water and mud treatments are in demand across the world.

Karen Wardley, programme leader for hair, beauty and spa therapies at the university, said: "Many students get recruited on their work placements and continue the course through e-learning. The industry is crying out for the level of skill and training offered on our course."

One former graduate has even been paid to massage the toes of footballer David Beckham.

Many of the 80 places on the course are filled by students from Korea, Israel, Hong Kong and Cyprus.

In the past year, the number of applications has doubled, and from next September, 20 rather than 15 first-years will start the course.

Demand is likely to continue to rise as the UK population ages and instances of rheumatoid arthritis increase.

Lynn Basford, a teaching fellow at the department, said: "The pace of everyday life is also causing distress. In many people's eyes, modern medicine is failing them and they are resorting to other methods of reducing their pain."

The spa and treatment rooms are particularly impressive, set in the grounds of the UK's oldest hydrotherapy hospital - the former Royal Devonshire Hospital built in 1785.

Training spa managers is an extremely serious and professional business in Buxton. Modules on the BSc include anatomy, physiology, management and marketing.

David Gray, head of the school of culture and lifestyle, said: "People will often raise their eyebrows at subjects done to degree level that they don't see as academic. As soon as they look at the curriculum, they realise that it is a fully academic programme and that it is challenging and requires commitment."

Look out for the masters degree in spa management planned for 2008.

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